England and Welsh law protect employees that blow the whistle on wrongdoing under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 [“PIDA”] (amendment of Employment Rights Act 1996); covering both the private and public sector. The PIDA protects employees that have made a ‘qualifying disclosure’.
‘Qualifying disclosures’ must relate to:
- Danger to an individual’s safety, health, or the environment;
- Breaching a legal obligation;
- A criminal offence;
- Perversion of justice;
- Attempting to cover up any of the above.
Whistleblowers must reasonably believe that one of the above failures has occurred, is occurring, or is likely to occur in the future. This belief need not be proven to be correct so long as it is honestly held by the individual. Disclosures that are not relating to the above list will not amount to a qualifying protected disclosure including those stated in the Official Secrets Act 1989, and complaints relating to a personal grievance or where it is not made in the public interest.
PIDA protections will only apply to those who have made the disclosure to the correct party: an employer, or another person reasonably believed to be mainly responsible for the failure, in the first instance.
TIP – Employees should check internally whether their employer has a company policy, before whistleblowing.
Can you get fired for whistleblowing?
If a person’s contract is terminated due to a protected disclosure, this may give rise to claims for automatic unfair dismissal. An employee can also seek damages if they feel that they have suffered detriment because of whistleblowing, such as disciplinary allegations or a demotion. At a Tribunal, it will be considered whether the disclosure made was reasonable, including:
- Whether it was made to the appropriate party;
- The severity of the wrongdoing;
- The actions that the employer took / might reasonably have taken;
- Whether the companies internal procedure was followed when making the disclosure; and
- Whether the wrongdoing is likely to occur again.
If the disclosure is held to be reasonable and justified, those that have been unfairly dismissed will likely be ordered to be re-instated, re-employed, or awarded compensation.
Why are whistleblowers protected?
In the growing demand for company transparency, whistleblowers play a vital role in eliminating wrongdoing and increasing integrity in the workplace. However, whistleblowers can sometimes find themselves coming under fire from their colleagues, as they try and decipher the individual’s identity, and in doing so can subject the whistleblower to harassment and discrimination. This undoubtedly acts as a deterrent to making disclosures of the relevant failures.
There are many cases where whistleblowing has accomplished great things. Exposing corruption and promoting reform is something that must be encouraged in a work environment, and therefore the protections available to these employees must be communicated coherently and with clear commitment to take all reasonable steps to safeguard anyone that comes forward with a qualified disclosure.
How can Thrive help?
We have extensive experience assisting employees who have suffered a whistleblowing detriment. Read here for a case where we previously represented a nurse who won her whistleblowing claim against her NHS Trust.
Have you been subject to a detriment, having whistleblown? From tribunal claims to draft grievances and appeal letters, we know how daunting the legal process can be for employees, we are here to help. We will take off your case from start to finish ensuring you know exactly where you stand.
We can also support individuals by negotiating settlements agreements with your employer to get the best possible outcome for you. We provide these services whilst being completely transparent as possible with you about the legal cost.
Before commencing work on your behalf, we shall do an initial review and then inform you of any additional costs and ensure you fully understand how your legal fees are calculated, in writing, before proceeding with any case.
Whilst most firms operate on an hourly rate, we prefer to offer our clients a fixed fee (wherever possible) to assist our clients in managing their legal costs.
Please note this blog is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. Please contact us if you have any questions on firstname.lastname@example.org.